EFL Real Beginners – Better Board Management

Following on from my previous blog regarding teaching EFL real beginners:

During your TESOL Certificate course at SGI, amongst a million other things concerning best practice teaching, you will be dealing with issues of ‘Board Management’. So, here is a view into my ‘Real Beginners’ classroom from this morning to see how I boarded all the target language.



Actually, it wasn’t like I did a standard PPP lesson with target language like you are required to do in your observed lessons. It was more of a dogme approach (just read ‘freeform/improvised’, if you don’t know what dogme teaching is) opening and I improvised from there.



Let me give you some background as to why I went with this lesson, rather than the one I had prepared.

  • Most of the South American and Spanish students in this class work as kitchen staff.
  • On Friday, the students mostly turn up 5 or 10 minutes late, as Thursday is a BIG night in this town when the whole town is out eating and drinking and a bar can 1800 tapas, whereas a normal day they usually sell about 20 – 30. So, the students work very hard (and late) on Thursdays and find it difficult to make it for exactly 9am.
  • The first student who showed up (at 9:01) is the main chef at one of the most popular tapas bars here. I asked her how her previous night’s work was.
  • We spoke about the tapas she has to cook on Thursday nights in VERY basic English
  • I asked her for her recipe for making tortilla: “How do you make omelette?”
  • I had been speaking to another teacher the other day about a successful intermediate lesson she had done about ‘Working through a recipe’, so that was obviously lurking somewhere in my TEFL subconscious!
  • My totally original TEFL thinking (natch) came up with “Let’s make a recipe” idea for a lesson – coz yeah, that’s NEVER been done before. 🙂



As you would imagine, we had the need of ‘recipe chunks’ of English like:

  • How do you make…?
  • First, you need…
  • salt and pepper
  • Then you have to…
  • Cut the…
  • Mix everything together
  • Fry it for 5 minutes: More or less.
  • …and lots more



During this section, my TTT was very high AND I was translating as the monolingual students know absolutely no English whatsoever. Accurate pronunciation is a real difficulty for these South Americans, so we did lots of variations of drilling. I was also correcting them when peer correction wasn’t able to outline important errors like, ‘6 eggs’ was produced as ‘SICK egg’.

I didn’t have any prepared pictures with me to help with comprehension, as this was totally improvised (and unusually, I didn’t have my tablet with me for quick jumps into google images), so no presentation from the PPP. We did however use the class bi-lingual dictionary, as I didn’t know what ‘trocear’ or ‘batir’ were in Spanish when the Ss asked me. BUT, I did make them ask in the classroom meta-language that I had previously taught them: “How do you say ______ in English?

So, let’s say that the teaching style was a mish-mash of things you should and should not do for your observed lessons on your Cert course. In fact, it was much more leaning towards a perfect illustration of Anthony Gaughan‘s ‘The Se7en Deadly Sins of ELT‘! 🙂



This is what my board looked like after students had constructed their recipe dialogue. What do you think about it?

A bit messy, disorganised and colourless. But probably OK for CELTA level…. but could be better. As the students practised their dialogue (before presenting in fornt of class in pairs), whilst monitoring and assisting, I was thinking how I could improve the board.

The first thing was to get a refill for the red pen, so that I wasn’t limited to one colour!!!



I always do a ‘language review’ at the end of every class, trying to give it about 10 mins or more to reflect on ‘what we have learnt today’. At this point, I re-elict the ‘good shit’ from the class members, by either rubbing items off the board or simply standing in the way as an obstruction to ‘reading it off the board instead of remembering’.
But because I wanted to restructure the board a tad and then also do a final ‘chain recipe’ (where after the students had done their own presentations, they had to follow on with one line each as we went round the class, in order to make a communal tortilla), I did this section earlier than usual.

What do you think now?

I think the ‘red for verbs’ adds something and Sectioning off the vocab from the verbs both probably help visual learners.
But what else could have been improved upon?



What things I will take from this lesson: On your Cert course you have to reflect on how the class went in your post-observed class review.

I need to plan my boardwork in advance (although how do you do that with this improvised approach? – Well, Bren you probably do it by using some colours and having clear understandable sections for TL, Grammar, errors)

I did some big tefl training no-no’s like very high teacher-centred focus, translation, Practice not production at the end of class .

But does that matter? The learners had got it, by Jove! They could deliver a recipe. Some of the grammar here is highly complex – we’ve got imperatives, instructional language, advice, staging. According to a standard textbook, there’s no way that real beginners should be able to achieve this after 4 weeks. Good on the students for jumping into it, enjoying it and making tons of progress.

Let’s see if it really is effective teaching: next week I am going to recycle the language and make a video of the students with their very own TV cooking programme.

The proof is in the pudding (pun intended).


Bren Brennan

About Bren Brennan

Bren initially trained here at SGI and then joined the staff in 2005. Since 2006, he has taught abroad in Budapest, Berlin and now at Mondragon University in Spain. He returns to teach at SGI London every summer and completed the SGI Trinity DipTESOL in 2011. He also regularly writes posts for students here.
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One Response to EFL Real Beginners – Better Board Management

  1. Aon says:

    I like to know english from this site

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